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Brett Kavanaugh
Brett Kavanaugh (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

In the days and weeks to come, the question of whether a drunken, teenage Brett Kavanaugh did or didn’t  sexually assault Christine Blasey Ford is one that many members of Congress and the media will do their best to parse.

For others in the political world and the punditocracy, however, “did he or didn’t he” doesn’t seem to be the operating question.

Instead, there is a different query floating around the internet, expressed most directly on MSNBC today by New York Times columnist Bari Weiss:

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Adlai E. Stevenson is shown at the United Nations General Assembly in 1965, when he served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
Adlai E. Stevenson is shown at the United Nations General Assembly in 1965, when he served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. (Associated Press)

In September 1999, as the race to succeed President Clinton was heating up and rumors were swirling about Republican candidate George W. Bush’s past indulgences, the Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed that probably seemed quaint even in its day. The piece by a pair of law-school academics, Steven Lubet and  Steven A. Drizin, recounted how the Democratic Party nominee for president in 1952, Adlai E. Stevenson, defused a potentially explosive secret buried in his past by leveling with the reporter who dug it up.

The journalist, Time magazine’s William Glasgow, discovered that a 12-year-old Stevenson had shot and killed a friend at a Christmas party — an event that had gone unreported since it had happened 40 years previously. An inquest had determined that the shooting was accidental; nevertheless, Glasgow confronted Stevenson about it as he was preparing a cover story on the candidate for the magazine.

Here’s what happened, according to Lubet and Drizin: “There was never a doubt as to how the candidate would respond. His father and grandfather both had been elected to high office, and he would follow their examples of honesty and probity. ‘You know,’ he said to the reporter, ‘you are the first person who has ever asked me about that . . . and this is the first time I have ever spoken of it to anyone.’ Then he proceeded to explain all of the details in a quiet matter-of-fact way.”

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A container ship sails by the business district in Qingdao in east China's Shandong province on Sept. 13.
A container ship sails by the business district in Qingdao in east China's Shandong province on Sept. 13. (Chinatopix via AP)

President Trump announced Monday that he’s slapping a 10% tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, on top of similar tariffs imposed earlier this year on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports. Once the new tariffs are in place, Trump’s levies will apply to almost half the value of the products we buy from China.

Too bad the president doesn’t seem to understand who will pay these tariffs.

At an event earlier Monday, Trump talked about the trade negotiations with Mexico and Canada, then said, “China is now paying us billions of dollars in tariffs, and hopefully we'll be able to work something out.” That’s exactly backward. The tariffs Trump imposed on Chinese goods are paid by the businesses and consumers in this country that buy them.

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh listens at his Senate confirmation hearing.
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh listens at his Senate confirmation hearing. (Christy Bowe / Globe Photos/Zuma Press)

Now that the woman behind a fuzzy, anonymous sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has gone public with her accusation, it must be taken seriously.  That means having the FBI look into it.  That also means the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee who are so enamored with the persona they have created for Kavanaugh (He’s super smart! He loves his kids! He likes homeless people, too!) need to delay their vote on him.

Because even though this incident allegedly happened more than three decades ago, we still need to know more about it — and then a decision can be made.

The accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, is a Palo Alto University professor who trains graduate students in clinical psychology. She has offered details: a drunken teenage Kavanaugh allegedly pushing her into a bedroom and onto a bed, groping her, clapping his hand over her mouth when she tried to yell out. That doesn't make her story automatically true, but the details make the allegation serious enough to be worth investigating. 

  • Opinion
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Judge Brett Kavanaugh has denied the allegations by an anonymous woman.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh has denied the allegations by an anonymous woman. (Saul Loeb / AFP-Getty Images)

Whether you support the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh or oppose it, you can only be disgusted by the way the Senate has handled — or mishandled — a last-minute allegation dating to his high school days. 

On Thursday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) issued this vague statement: “I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.”

Feinstein may have had no choice but to go public at that point about what was later reported to be a letter alleging that the teenage Kavanaugh had held a girl down at a party and attempted to force himself on her.

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  • Trump
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Robert S. Mueller III's investigations team continues to work steadily and quietly while Washington's political institutions crumble.
Robert S. Mueller III's investigations team continues to work steadily and quietly while Washington's political institutions crumble. (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

Paul Manafort’s decision to accept a plea deal and cooperate with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election doesn’t really come as a surprise — having already been convicted on tax fraud charges, this was the smart move for Manafort, a former chairman of Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign. From the public’s point of view, it’s most significant for the reassurance it offers: The political machinery in Washington may be in shambles, but the courts, and Mueller’s team, are holding firm.

I’m among those who believe President Trump has sought to obstruct justice, from his firing of FBI director James B. Comey to his threat to Mueller to not investigate Trump family finances. Congress, which is where you’d expect to find oversight — you know, checks and balances — has instead offered Trump cover. Adherence to law is secondary to congressional Republican leaders whose primary focus is hanging on to power.

  • Opinion
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Fred Guttenberg attempts to shake hands with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Sept. 4.
Fred Guttenberg attempts to shake hands with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Sept. 4. (Andrew Harnik / AP)

During a break in Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings on Sept. 4, the father of a school shooting victim approached Kavanaugh and tried to shake his hand.

Kavanaugh moved away without clasping hands with Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was among 17 people killed on Feb. 14 at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

  • Opinion
  • The Golden State
  • Election 2018
It's possible the two gubernatorial candidates may not appear on the same stage at the same time before election day.
It's possible the two gubernatorial candidates may not appear on the same stage at the same time before election day. (Los Angeles Times)

Earlier this summer it seemed possible, even likely, that there would be only one debate between California’s two gubernatorial candidates. That’s all that front-runner Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, would agree to.

Now it seems as if even that one debate will not happen, and this time because of John Cox’s demands. The Republican businessman, who is challenging Newsom, wouldn’t agree to participate unless he could dictate the topics of conversation, according to a story by my colleague Melanie Mason. The debate host, CNN, finally canceled the Oct. 1 event — and who can blame the network for pulling out?

What a couple of babies. Cox and Newsom should be happy to meet in any and all forums to engage with each other and show voters the differences between them. As The Times editorial board said in a recent editorial, there’s nothing quite like these unscripted debate forums to offer a glimpse into the real character of a candidate.

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Pope Francis warned that the devil has "got it in for the bishops."
Pope Francis warned that the devil has "got it in for the bishops." (Alberto Pizzoli / AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis will meet Thursday with a delegation of U.S. bishops who want to discuss the furor over the sensational accusations against the pope by a retired Vatican diplomat. The delegation will be led by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, the vice president.

It’s possible that after the meeting the pope will abandon his policy of refusing to comment on accusations by Carlo Maria Vigano, a former Vatican envoy to the United States. Last month Vigano issued a “testimony” in which he claimed that Francis had attempted to rehabilitate former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, had sidelined McCarrick by 2010 in response to reports that McCarrick had sexually harassed seminarians. 

Certainly Catholics demoralized by the McCarrick affair hope the pope will break his silence. But they couldn’t have been encouraged by a sermon the pope delivered at Mass on Tuesday.

  • Trump
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  • The Golden State
  • The Swamp
The Trump administration is planning to rollback yet another Obama policy limiting methane emissions from oil and gas well sites.
The Trump administration is planning to rollback yet another Obama policy limiting methane emissions from oil and gas well sites. (Photo courtesy of Dana Caulton)

There’s a certain irony in the timing of a report that the Trump administration is about to lift more restrictions on methane emissions from drilling operations a day after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law requiring California to get all of its electricity from zero-carbon sources by 2045.

On the one hand, we have more environmentally irresponsible behavior from the Trump administration, while on the other, the fifth-largest economy in the world steps out — again — as a global leader in the fight to counter the worst effects of climate change.

You can guess which one I’m rooting for.